Mapping the Measure of America


The American Human Development Index is a domestic adaptation of the Human Development Index(HDI), a number developed by Pakistani Economist Mahbub ul Haq (extending Amartya Sen's conceptual framework) and used by the United Nations Development Program. The HDI is a politically expedient metric that takes a few more or less inarguable measures of human progress (life expectancy, literacy, income) and condenses them into a single value between 0 and 10: a kind of "report card" for the world. While many critical measures of progress are in no way covered by this number (political and religious freedom for instance) it's a vast improvement on the numbers it is likely to replace: Gross Domestic Product (GDP), for instance. The American Human Development Index applies this measure of human progress to domestic politics. When filtered by factors like geography, race, and gender, the American Human Development Index provides a window into issues of inequality.

In 2010, the American Human Development Project asked me to help them re-think the way they visualized the American Human Development Index (HDI). The result of the collaboration was the website Mapping the Measure of America. Our goal was to use data visualization to make the case for the American Human Development Index while providing a rich, and fast browsing experience that might continue to draw researchers, journalists, and students (who may or may not have a previous investment in the Human Development Index) to the site. The interface challenge was to present a large amount of information (over 70 indicators of human well-being sliced down by race, gender, and five different levels of geographic specificity) in a form that would feel extremely intuitive and simple to a user.

I developed the project over four months with the help of Zach Watson –who handled the code heavy lifting: compressing the map-shapes and the data. Sha Hwang made the connection and provided moral support.


Downloads & Links

VISIT the project site